The quote in the title of this blog was used by my dad to describe Libby Willis shortly after meeting her when he said to me, “I love her enthusiam and positive attitude, because with Libby everyday is holiday and every meal is a banquet.”. My dad also reminds me often that after making the above comment he said to me, “If you don’t marry that girl, it will be the biggest mistake of your life.”
That enthusiasm and love of life was one of the first things that attracted me to the young, bubbly, Libby when we both were still teenagers. Throughout her life Libby could seemingly find good in everyone she met, so much so, that our son Jerod once told his mom that he thought she could probably find something good to say about Adolf Hitler, to which Libby said, “I’m sure he had some good traits but he was a man who made some very bad decisions, but God loved him so much that he sent his son to die for him as well as each one of us”. I rest my case.
As much fun as Libby had living life and looking for the good in others, at her core she was an introvert, she was never comfortable being the center of attention, preferring to do most of the work and not get any of the credit. But if Libby saw a project at the church that needed completing or if she saw a child in need of help, she was very bold and seem to possess endless energy to complete projects and care for children.
On many occasions over the years I begrudgingly met Libby in the front yard with a head lamp and a shovel in my hand after she phoned me from the car asking if I could get a hole ready in the yard so the we could plant something just as soon as she got home. The story was nearly the same every time; Libby would explain with her hands waving in the air and using short bursts of sentences, ” I was just driving down the road… you know after I dropped Helen off…we had been buying stuff for the church dinner next Sunday…don’t forget to set up the tables… and I passed this house with the most gorgeous _________ ” (tree, flower or bush, you can fill in the blank here) “that I have ever seen, so I stopped and asked the little man where they bought such a gorgeous ________ ” (tree, flower or bush ) “and , well, we got to talking… and he was such a nice little man… he and his wife have been married nearly 40 years and they have 3 children and 4 grandchildren… I taught his son in the 3rd grade… now he was a rounder…always having stay in from recess… and anyway, I kept talking to the nice little man …then before I left… I told him how pretty the _________ (tree, flower or bush ) was and then…he just dug it up and gave it to me!”
Whew, sometimes it could be more exhausting to try and follow the animated explanation of how Libby wound up with the tree, flower or bush than actually digging a hole and planting it.
People were drawn to the open, honest and caring attitude that Libby possessed, in addition, Libby had this naive belief that everyone else in this world was as trusting and giving as she was and in spite of that innocence, or more likely, because of it, people would do things for her that most of us would never even think to ask. The one story that illustrates that personality trait better than most happened when my youngest brother Rodney was a freshman at the University of Georgia and our family had gone to Athens on a Fall Saturday to watch a football game.
Throughout the game we all watched in awe as a talented freshman running back named Herschel dominated the day; everyone, that is, except for Libby who was enamored with Uga the Georgia Bulldog mascot on the sideline in front us, After the game, we all went down on the field to see a friend of Rodney’s who was on the team (and possibly meet this Walker kid) but as we started down the long rows of bleachers onto the field Libby said, “You all go ahead, I’m going to go pet the dog”. I said, “Libby, don’t be silly, they are not going to let you pet the dog, they will not let you near that dog”. “I will just ask”, she said as she walked away.
Later after visiting with Rodney and his friends (but not Hershel) we were ready to start back home but we couldn’t find Libby. Bear in mind this was BC (Before Cellphones) so my mom, my dad and Rodney spread out as we walked the field searching for Libby. By now most of the fans had cleared the stands and only a few remained scattered about the field, that was, except for a crowd of people standing close together at the “G” in the center of the field, which is exactly where I found Libby sitting cross-legged on the ground surrounded by children with the Georgia mascot UGA III lying in her lap, his leash in her left hand.
As I approached the group, I could hear Libby’s “teacher voice” telling some children, “No, James is next in line to pet Uga so you will need to wait your turn” then adding, “OK Jenny, don’t pet him too hard he’s had a long day and he’s getting tired.” It was truly one of those “Only Libby” moments that we would see repeated thousands of times more in her life a she seemed to always surprise her family and friends with light-hearted moments
Libby could have literally and figuratively rubbed my nose it that day in Athens by giving me a knowing look with the subtle raising of her eyebrows or by simply saying, “See I told you so” but those thoughts never entered her mind as she sat beaming from ear to ear, simply enjoying her afternoon of college football, surrounded by kids saying, “Hey lady, can we pet your dog?”
She did, however have one thing to say to me when she saw me looking down at her over the top of the children’s heads, she said, “Oh hi honey, will you check to see if you can get me a towel, Uga is slobbering all over my legs!”. I said,” Yes Miss Libby” just before I shuffled off in my search.